20 Best Tips
Teaching Textbooks

How to Plan Your Homeschool Day

How to Plan Your Homeschool Day

 

While it seems intimidating, planning your homeschool day is something that can be done. Having a schedule or routine in place can help bring organization to your homeschool day and ensures that you are getting enough educational time each day as well.

Maybe you are a family who thrives on a minute by minute plan for your day, or perhaps a more laid-back approach suits your family. Some families prefer a basic outline to their day that allows more flexibility each day. Regardless of your approach, putting together an overall plan can be a help to any family.

In some ways I really dislike the term schedule. At times, it seems very rigid and confining, and over the years our homeschool day has relaxed more in style {and so have I!}. The word that really best defines our day is routine. We don’t have set time increments to work on different subject areas, but rather an overall routine that we follow each day to help us know and complete what needs to be worked on.

Creating an Outline of the Homeschool Year

A few weeks ago, I talked about setting goals for your homeschool and knowing your purpose in homeschooling. This is really the first step in your planning, because you need to know where you want to end up before you set out on your year! Throughout your planning process it is important to know what educational goals you have in mind for your children and revisit those goals periodically to make sure you are doing what needs to be done for those goals to be met.

Curious as to how I start my planning each year?  Here’s a peek at how I break down our year and get started planning in the month or two prior to school starting:

  1. Pull out a blank yearly calendar {or print off a simple one from online}. You just need a simple year-at-a-glance calendar that you can plan out an overall outline of what your school year will look like: vacation times, any special days off or field trips, co-op times, and holidays. Basically, all of the times that you know need to be blocked off your overall schedule.
  2. Figure out how many days or weeks of instruction you need to complete. Depending on the homeschool laws in your state, this could vary. We basically plan on 36 weeks of school or 180 days overall {and that includes our field trips and co-op days}. Our family tries to plan a six week on and one week off routine for school. There have been some years that this has worked out wonderfully – and other years that we have had to adapt based on life circumstances. Nothing is set in stone though, so it can always be tweaked and adjusted as needed.
  3. Know your family’s routine. During the summer months our family takes a bit of a longer break because we travel to visit family that lives a distance away, and we also like to camp together and take longer weekends to do that. We also take a longer time period off around Christmas and plan to have birthdays off for each family member. Your family might have more activities to adjust based around sports or other travel, so consider this when planning. There are families that school year round – do what works for your family!
  4. Leave a little room to breathe. I actually have a few days here and there planned in as ‘make-up’ days – or those ‘just in case something came up and we got off-track’ days. If we need to use them, we do – if not, yay!! An added break for us, or we can keep working and take a breather somewhere else. Inevitably something unexpected always comes up, so allow yourself a little extra space!

Our schedule this year looked a little something like this:

  • start beginning of August, long break for Labor Day weekend
  • on most of September and October with a break the last week of October
  • off the week of Thanksgiving
  • Off the week of Christmas
  • resume school beginning of January with a week off at the end of January
  • on most of February and March
  • week off in April
  • finish May 10th – and allow a week for testing later in the month of May

Creating a Daily Routine

Once the outline of our year was planned, I sat down with the list of subjects and curriculum that we needed to work on to generate a plan of attack. There are some subjects that we work on daily and others that only need to be worked on a few times or once a week.

First, I worked on an overall routine for our day. Around 8:30ish we finish up any household chores and I remind {repeatedly} that we are starting school at 9am. Around 9am, we all get together in the school room and then our day looks a little something like this:

  • Calendar and Bible time {as a group}
  • History {together}
  • Handwriting & snack
  • Break up to start independent work: the oldest three start working on subjects such as math, language, vocabulary, reading, typing, and other similar subjects.
  • Start 1:1 work with our youngest {math, science, reading, etc….} and when his work is finished, work with the next oldest or answer questions as needed. Finish most of work with the youngest two before lunch {a few of Zachary’s subjects spill over into the afternoon, including science, writing, and spelling}
  • Lunch & Break {about 45 minutes}
  • After lunch the oldest three work on science with me and then I work with any of the kids on subjects that need 1:1 help such as spelling, writing, etc.
  • Wrap up with any additional subjects as needed – such as art or Little Passports

Organizing Our School Paperwork

Organizing School Paperwork - a simple folder system that works

Something that I have found helpful over the last several years is this simple folder system for organizing our paperwork. I spend a few days in the weeks before school printing off all of the worksheets and papers we need for the year in the month before school starts, pulling all papers from workbooks and dividing every thing out for the year before the year starts. I wrote an entire post about Organizing Homeschool Paperwork that you can read to see how I do it {or bookmark for later}.

Using the Weekly Workbox Grid to Visually Organize Our Day

Weekly Workbox Grid - visual organizer for homeschool copy

I am a very visual person and the format of the weekly workbox grid {or workfolders like we use} works very well for our family. Before the school year starts, I lay out each day of the week and pull out the different subject cards for each child along with their weekly grids. The subject cards are then organized by day so that the kids and I can both see what subjects still need to be worked on that day {and they can work ahead too if they are able too}.

Workbox Weekly Grid Cards

This format has also helped me when deciding what day to work on different subjects. For example, I work on spelling with the girls on one day, but Zachary’s lesson are on an opposite day. This way I can also see if we have too many ‘heavy’ subjects planned in a day and adjust accordingly.

You can read more about the Weekly Workbox Grid here.

Plugging it into My Weekly Homeschool Planner

Homeschool Planner coiled

Once I have our routine figured out and a basic plan in place, I begin plugging things into my Weekly Homeschool Planner. I actually print a copy off each year so that I can edit {without getting distracted on my laptop during the school day} and then put it into the editable pdf file each week.

The paper copy of my planner is stored in my Homeschool Binder and stays on my desk so I can keep track of our week as we go along. If you would like to see more of my Homeschool Binder, you can take a peek at it here.

Additional Tips for Planning Your Daily Routine

  1. Plan for breaks. Don’t forget to give yourself and the kids periodic breaks in their day. Whether for snacks, lunch, or a quick ‘get the wiggles out’ break, it’s helpful to plan times to give yourself a mental break.
  2. Know your kid’s most productive times. Our children are all early risers, so it works for us to start school earlier. Your family may not function well until afternoon. Plan your day around the times that you will be most productive overall.
  3. Schedule the subjects that require more focus or tend to get put aside FIRST. When we switched our group subjects such as history and Bible to the beginning of our day, we began to accomplish SO much more. We originally would try to do them at the end of the day and they sometimes got pushed aside and lost in the shuffle. Getting them done first has helped tremendously.
  4. Add fun to your day. Puzzles, manipulatives, and other hands-on activities many times get shelved – but there is so much that can be learned from them as well. Be sure to include them throughout your week. Our solution has been adding a ‘fun jar’ that has slips of paper with all of the different manipulatives and extras from the shelves. When there is a lull in the day, the kids go pick a slip and work on that project.
  5. Be flexible and re-evaluate periodically. The plans can look great on paper, but when you try to implement them, you may find areas that need tweaking. Every month or two, be sure to adjust areas that need help – it’s all part of the process of finding that ‘groove’ for your family.
  6. Know when to wrap it up. Granted there are times that you need to stick to your guns and have your kids complete something, but have an end time in goal for each day. There are days when you will get so wrapped up in your learning and lose track of time, but some days that clock will just tick, tick, tick… If you can set a specific ‘stop’ time for each day that the kids look forward to, it can help a lot {for them and you!}.

Overall, the planning process will take a little bit of preparation and time at the beginning, but will help SO much over the course of the year! With each year that goes by, the process goes more quickly too as we already have a basic routine in place and know more of what to expect from our days and the curriculum we are using.

Give yourself grace when planning. You won’t get it perfect – and it’s ok! And remember that schedules are great, but the best part about homeschooling is that we have this amazing time to spend with our kids and have FUN learning together – and that is the most important thing!

What planning tip would you give to other homeschool moms? Is there something that has helped you along the way? Leave a comment and share!

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

Jolanthe Signature

How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum

How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum

Curriculum choices can be truly overwhelming. Walk into any vendor hall at a homeschool convention and your will find tables and tables of books, workbooks, and manipulatives.  There are so many choices and new ones are presented every single day!

Maybe another homeschool family {or blogger} you know seems to have the ‘perfect’ curriculum fit. The good news is, there isn’t one set curriculum that is perfect for everyone. Your family is able to pick and choose what they like and create a custom curriculum that is beneficial to all of you. What works for another family may not be the best for another, or what works for one child may not work for another.

Over the years our family has tried a variety of things – ranging from a complete curriculum package to creating things to use, and it has morphed into a combination of pieces that we now use together as a family and components that we use individually to round out the various subject areas {see our current curriculum list here}.

How do you decide what is right for you family?

Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Curriculum

  1. What is your teaching style or educational philosophy? Are you familiar with the different teaching methods. This can help narrow down some of the various pieces that you might be looking at because the teaching method of that program could differ greatly than your philosophy.
  2. What are your children’s learning styles? Every child is different in their learning approach and may process information differently. Some pieces of curriculum are tailored to meet the needs of various learners, so this is very helpful to know!
  3. What educational goals have you set for your children and family? This is another area that is important to look at. If your goal is for your children to learn about American history this year, that complete program on the Middle Ages may not be what you need right now.
  4. What is your budget? As stinky as that word can be, it can also help you reign in any crazy spending. Homeschooling isn’t always free {although we’ll be talking about ways to save money later!!}. I strongly advise setting a budget and knowing your spending limits. It’s always helpful to know the retail cost of a curriculum or book and have it handy. That way if you find a great deal on something you need, you know to snatch it up {and if you have the money to do so!}.  I typically try to buy pieces of curriculum that can be re-used with future children and also ones that have a great resale value {just something to consider}.
  5. Will you teach some subjects to all children? Some families focus on specific grade levels and books while other families work on certain subject areas together as a family. For example, we work on history and Bible together, a few of our children work on science together, but there are other areas such as math and language that are grade-level specific.
  6. What works for your current season of life? There are some programs that are more labor-intensive than others. If you have lots of little ones underfoot, it may not be the right timing for your family. The ages and stages of your children make a difference. When we first started out, I purchased a very literature heavy curriculum {meaning I read out loud a LOT}. Unfortunately at that point in our lives, I was nursing an infant and was operating on very little sleep which translated to me falling asleep while reading our lessons.

Additional Things to Consider When Choosing Curriculum

Answering the questions in the section above may help you narrow down some of your choices and give you some good questions to approach various vendors with when you are looking for curriculum. Here are a few additional tips and thoughts to consider as well.

  • Start with what you have. You would probably be surprised at all of the things your have hidden on shelves and in cabinets that can you used during your school year. Make a quick inventory list of what you have handy before you buy a lot of new things. If you can keep a running list of the things you have on hand it will come in handy {and keep you from buying duplicates!}.
  • Take advantage of your library system. Before buying an expensive book that you might only use for a few weeks of the school year, check to see if your local library has book on their shelves. They may even be able to borrow it from another library in your lending system and some libraries will even consider ordering suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask!
  • Read reviews and ask other moms before buying. Talk to your friends {both in real life and online}, read reviews of curriculum, check out samples from companies, and also know cancellation or return policies. Find out what is working {or isn’t working} for other families and build from there. Just remember – each family is different and just because it works for one family doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
  • Visit a homeschool convention or vendor fair. While this can be overwhelming, it is also a great opportunity to get a hands-on look at various companies, talk to vendors and find out more about their products.
  • Don’t be afraid to purchase used curriculum. Once you are familiar with various products, you may want to consider looking for teacher’s manuals and other components you are looking for either online or at used curriculum sales. I’ve found some fabulous deals this way – and it also doesn’t sting as much when you realize something just isn’t going to work for you. {Note: Respect copyright laws when purchasing or selling used}.
  • Borrow from another family. There have been times that we have been able to share things that we’ve purchased and are not currently using with other families or took a trial run with books or pieces that we didn’t know if we were ready to invest in.

With all that said, there are times that you find out part way through the year that something you thought would be perfect just isn’t. Sometimes you discover that curriculum isn’t working. Remember, there is likely to be a little tweaking involved in the process, and while it’s frustrating – it’s ok. The first bit of homeschooling involves a learning curve where you are discovering your areas of comfort in teaching and your children’s learning grooves.

What one tip would you offer other families when choosing curriculum pieces? Leave a comment below and chime in with your thoughts.

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

Jolanthe Signature

Setting Homeschool Goals and Knowing Your Purpose

Goals and Purpose in Homeschooling

Before you start out on a road trip, you typically know where you are headed, right? You have your coordinates plugged into your GPS or maps and directions printed off, ready to help you along your way. You don’t just pile everyone in the car, look at the sun, and then head off in the general direction hoping to figure out eventually where you are headed.

In the weeks and months before you begin homeschooling it is important to have the ‘end’ in sight as well. Without direction or having a plan for your homeschooling, you can wander aimlessly. Having an overall plan in place helps you stay in focus during the school year, adjust your days and weeks when necessary, remain motivated during those ‘slump’ times, and remember what you wanted to see accomplished.

Homeschool Goals and Purpose Printables

Today I’d love to chat more with your about a few specific areas and also provide you with a few free printables to help you in your planning and goal setting.

Why Are You Homeschooling?

clip_image002

image courtesy of Microsoft

You could be brand new to homeschooling and just sitting down to write down your vision or your overall goals for your family. Maybe this is your first year homeschooling and you just pulled your child out of the school system.  Goals can be short or long term and do not only need to include academics. You might also consider character traits, behaviors, etc… Your vision and plan for your homeschool is tailored specifically to your family.

What is it that specifically prompted you to homeschool? Latch onto that passion and consider these additional questions: How do you envision your homeschool looking? Do you have an overall focus? What will you do if you begin feeling burned out? What do you want to be able to say at the end of your school year?

Write down your plans and vision in the first part of the Homeschool Goals and Vision printable.

What Do You Want Your Children to Accomplish?

clip_image002[5]

image courtesy of Microsoft

For each of your children, it is important to know what you want to see accomplished over the course of your year.  Set measurable {and attainable} goals. You may be tempted to think in broad terms, but I would encourage you to be specific in the goals that you put in place with your children. For example, instead of stating ‘finish a math book’, you would set goals of: count from 1 to 100, understand tally marks, know days of the week and months of the year, name seasons, etc…

Maybe you have a list of books that you want to read during the course of the year out loud as a family. Write them down. Anything that you want your children or family to accomplish should be recorded.

Print off several copies of the educational goals pages from the Homeschool Goals and Vision printable.

What Are Your Goals as a Mom and Teacher?

road with direction arrows

Just as important as setting goals for you children is setting a few for yourself. For me personally, these goals might are being FULLY engaged in what I am doing with our kids {and not get distracted by answering the phone or an email}. Another goal is to get paperwork sorted and entered in a TIMELY fashion {ahem}. Or to respond with patience to the question that has been asked and answered 1,572 times already.

An additional goal that I’ve set for myself this year includes having a weekly time to sit down with our older two and review independent work that they have and make sure both understand what they are working on. Having that goal in front of me reminds me to follow through with them.

Maybe there are a few areas in your day that you struggle with and want to be more accountable in: starting school by _____ time or finishing by  ______ time. Just create a list for yourself too and have a friend or your spouse hold you accountable in those areas.

Relax, Think, and Plan

Before you go out and purchase any curriculum, be sure that you know what the educational goals are for your child and family. There are so many wonderful pieces of curriculum that you can buy and use – but not all of them may fit in with the goals that you have for your child. Having goals in place will allow you to evaluate your choices before making any decisions on things to buy.

Evaluate Your Goals and Plans Regularly

As with any plans, there are times that things need to be adjusted and tweaked.  Be sure to plan a time every six weeks or school quarter to review your vision and goals to see how you are doing. Are your children making progress on the goals you set for them? Do they need to be modified? How are you doing on your overall goals for the year.

While it may take some time and planning on the front end, having your goals and plans written down ahead of time will only help you and strengthen your resolve on those tough days {ask me how I know}. Homeschooling is an amazing blessing and responsibility – and you CAN do it! Take some time today to remind yourself why you first started – or why you want to begin!

But before you go, I have a question for you!!

We all have different reasons for homeschooling our children, but what is goal that you want to set for yourself the rest of this school year? What one thing would you like to see your children accomplish? Leave a comment today and chime in {and then let’s encourage each other in those goals}!

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

 

What is Your Child’s Learning Style?

Identifying Children's Learning Styles copy

 

From the time they are young, children learn in different ways. Knowing and understanding your children’s learning styles, or the way that they process and understand information, can help you as a parent and a teacher. You can tailor the learning environment to meet their unique needs and make learning even more fun!

Identifying your child’s learning style isn’t overly complicated and there are a few things you can observe that may help you {more formal observations are also available}.

What Are the Different Learning Styles?

How do your children approach different activities? Thinking about their favorite activities can also help you as you determine their learning styles. We’re covering three types of learners in this post: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

While you are reading about the different learning styles below, think not only about your kids, but how you learn best. This was a great reminder for me about each of our kids and what they need {or don’t need} during our school time. Often I forget that my kids are not the same type of learners as I am – and I need to adjust what we are doing or how we work together.

Auditory Learners

Children that are auditory learners learn best through listening and hearing information. They enjoy music and rhyme/rhythm in the learning process. This child may also love listening to stories and read-alouds. Facts may be easier to remember when they are given in the format of a song or a rhyme.

You may want to consider using headphones for this child as other background noises can distract the auditory learner from concentrating. Books on tape would be a great help as well. Auditory learners may benefit from reading directions out loud, so they can ‘hear’ what they need to do.

Things to consider for auditory learners: this child may be sensitive to the inflections in your voice and be sensitive to other background sounds that are going on in the room.

Visual Learners

Children that are visual learners learn best through seeing things around them. They benefit from colorful illustrations, enjoy taking notes, creating ‘lists’ to check off, and may close their eyes to visualize something they may be trying to remember.

Quiet environments are typically best for this learner because they may be distracted by all the noises going on around them and have trouble concentrating. Visual learners can also be very detail-oriented. They do well with maps, charts, diagrams and drawings to help them learn. They may also enjoy using flash cards for learning.

Things to consider for visual learners: This child is watching your facial movements as well – those smiles and frowns are all being processed. When reading books without pictures, encourage your visual learner to create a picture for the story and imagine what is taking place. They may also enjoy drawing a picture to go along with lessons.

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic or physical learners learn best through moving, touching, and actually doing something. Instead of hearing about how something works, they may have it taken apart and be trying to figure it out. These children benefit from physically touching objects when learning, so make it hands-on.

That pencil tapping that drives you crazy, might actually be helping them concentrate on a current task. Making models to go along with what you are studying can be helpful to this learner. Manipulatives are also a HUGE help. Coloring pictures or drawing to go along with a lesson might also be helpful to this learner as they are ‘doing’ while learning.

Things to consider for kinesthetic learners: may need to move around more frequently and they may be mislabeled as not listening – but they just need to wiggle and move around when learning. They may need frequent breaks and a clean learning space {no distractions}. Let them actively participate in the lesson!!

Finding Curricula for Different Learning Styles

There is no one way or right way when it comes to learning styles. Your child may fit exclusively into one category or lean mostly into one and a bit into another.

As a teacher and mom, finding curricula that you can use with multiple children and all these varied learning styles can be tricky!! Our family has the three different learning styles represented and I definitely want to be able to use one program with multiple children. That can be hard depending on the curriculum – so I love it when companies consider all the styles.

To give you an example, All About Spelling is one component  of our curriculum that helps visual learners {the different colored letter tiles}, auditory learners {sounding out}, and kinesthetic learners {touching to spell}  – YAY!  For our family this has been wonderful because I don’t have to hunt around for another spelling curriculum to use. We can just tailor the lessons to go along with our children’s different learning styles.

For Additional Reading on Learning Styles

The Big What Now Book of Learning StylesOne homeschool speaker that I love to listen too is Carol Barnier. She has a fabulous book, The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles,  that will help any homeschool mom. It provides alternative teaching ideas for the various learning styles for children in grades K-12, as well as ideas on how to incorporate multiple methods to teach your child. This is a book that you will want to keep handy on your shelf for years to come!

What is YOUR Learning Style?

As you were reading through the descriptions, were you able to identify any of your children’s learning styles? What about yourself – what type of a learner are you?

I am primarily a visual learner, but also benefit from kinesthetic learning techniques. One of our children is an auditory learner. Another kinesthetic. Another a visual learner. Ironically {as I was writing this post}, my visual learner was watching me and asking what I was writing about as she was observing my facial expressions.

Think about this even in your discipline styles with your children {oh, this was another ‘aha’ moment for me!!}. Visual learners want eye contact {that’s me}, but my auditory learner is one that feels I am not listening to her when we are in the heat of the moment {and she doesn’t like making eye contact}.

Knowing your child’s learning style doesn’t just apply to classroom learning!

What type of learners do you have in your home? Are your kids’ learning styles very different from the way you learn? How have you best adjusted your teaching and/or discipline to help your learners?

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

Jolanthe Signature

What Age Should I Start Homeschooling My Child?

What Age Should I Start Homeschooling

A reader emailed me with the following question, and since I get similar ones often, I thought it would be great to answer.

“…how do I get started with homeschooling, and at what age?  We’re older (adoptive) parents, and have a special needs 2-year-old plus a son who just turned four.

A retired kindergarten teacher told me that any child who has a birthday after about the end of March should wait a year to start school….especially for boys.”

What Age Should You Start Homeschooling?

Homeschooling is tied in to all of the little things that you do at home with your children and the best ‘official’ age will differ from child to child and family to family. In short – It depends on your child.

You may not make the actual decision to homeschool until your child is closer to actual school-age attendance. But here are some thoughts…

  • As you are rolling play dough with your two-year-old, cutting out shapes with cookie cutters, naming the shapes and learning together – that’s part of homeschooling. You are being intentional.
  • When you are talking about where grandma lives compared to where you live and pull out the maps to show them the world – you are homeschooling.
  • Sitting on the floor in front of the fridge with all those magnetic letters, spelling out your little one’s name – that’s a part of homeschooling.

From the moment you brought your child home, you have been daily teaching. Some days little things and some days BIG things.

When a child is younger, learning times are in short spurts {well, at least mine didn’t sit down for long periods of time or want to listen to me go on and on}. We learned together with fun, hands-on time, read lots of books together and if they wanted to do more, we did. Otherwise, we moved on to something else and had fun making everyday activities learning experiences.

How homeschooling looks may change as your child gets older, but you don’t have to recreate the typical classroom at home to be homeschooling.

Heidi St. John homeschool quote

quote via Heidi St. John, the Busy Homeschool Mom

Children can learn anywhere – and everywhere! Nature walks, a trip to the grocery store or the pet store can be a learning experience. It’s not all worksheets and desk learning, trust me.

Trust yourself and follow the lead of your child.

When Do I Need to Start Reporting Homeschooling?

Now as for what the government considers actual start of school – that will depend on the laws of your individual state. Some states require compulsory attendance for children that turn 5 by a certain date, others at age six. Be sure you know what is required from you legally as you prepare to start.

If you are uncertain on when you need to officially begin reporting your homeschooling, please be sure to read through this post – Homeschool Basics: Know the Laws of Your State. You’ll find links and resources to help you out.

Should We Wait to Start Homeschooling?

At what age should you officially begin homeschooling? This can be such a hard decision as parents, especially if you have to ‘declare’ a grade level for your child when you begin. As I mentioned earlier – all that you are doing to help your child learn at home – that is part of homeschooling. Age cutoffs differ from state to state, so it may be September here, but December in another area {crazy, isn’t it? – even they can’t agree!}.

But sometimes that official age part can be a bit tricky and brings us to the second part of the question:

A retired kindergarten teacher told me that any child who has a birthday after about the end of March should wait a year to start school….especially for boys.

The beauty of homeschooling is you can tailor your child’s education to suit their educational needs. March seems a bit of a stretch for me {I’m guessing maturity was the issue in question}, but remember the teacher:student ratio is a lot better homeschooling than it is in a classroom {grins}.

Three of our children missed the official cut-off age date for starting school {the end of September}  by having fall birthdays. They turned five after that date, but two of them were more than ready to start official ‘school’. Here are some ways we’ve approached the issue.

  • We waited initially to ‘report’ them as being homeschooled. We used our first year {prior to being required to report} as a ‘buffer’ year.  That  gave us time to work more with each child in an ‘official’ capacity and see how s/he would do. By the end of that year, we knew better where they stood academically and reported them the following year as a  year ahead.
  • Modify your curriculum. Our youngest missed the state cutoff as well. While we haven’t officially bumped him up to the next grade level yet, here’s how we are handling it. He is ‘on the record’ as a kindergartener, but I have modified his curriculum in some areas to a first grade level. Although he should be finishing up his kindergarten year, he is over halfway through several first grade texts. Just because he is kindergarten age, he is ready to work on more challenging material – and I don’t want to hold him back! Next year he will be reported as a first grader.
  • Consider emotional and physical maturity. Our boys are polar opposites in some ways. One is very big for his age and another is a bit of a squirt. The kids are home with us most of the time, but there are instances where they have to be assigned a ‘grade’, like in our local co-op. We made the decision to bump one of our boys ahead, despite the cutoff, and the other one will be in the recommended class based on the cutoff dates.
  • Know the law. Please remember that we based our decisions on the laws in our state of homeschooling and yours may be different. Before you make any decision, check the homeschool laws in your state {I can’t stress this enough}.

Bottom line is this: As the parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Please do not doubt that! One of our daughters was two months past the cutoff date, but was already reading and doing many things well beyond what a typical kindergartener would do. Our decision was to tailor her education to fit what she was then {and now is} capable of.

As the years progress, there may be times that your child{ren} leap ahead in certain subjects, lag behind in others, but you are able to give them more individualized attention and that is WONDERUL.

Even in your own family I’m sure that you’ve noticed learning differences between children. I was getting so frustrated with what one child was not doing when she reached the same grade level as her sister – completely forgetting that they are only one year apart in school, but 18 months apart in age. Six months can make a big difference in a child’s learning or comprehension sometimes!

You cannot compare your child to another child. Period. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, ok? And it’s also okay to hold off and wait a year. Trust your instincts with your children. I love that because we homeschool we actually open our children up to MORE possibilities and opportunities to tailor their education based on what they actually need!!

Has this been a difficult decision for your family with any of your children? What additional advice would you offer families trying to make the decision? Leave a comment with your advice.

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

Jolanthe Signature

Know the Homeschool Laws of Your State

What are the homeschool laws in my state

You’ve made the decision to homeschool – which by itself is a BIG decision. One thing to consider and research carefully before beginning are the laws of your individual state.

While homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, each state has unique laws stating what is required of both teachers and students: end of the year testing, hours to be completed each year, subjects to be covered, etc… Some states have very lenient laws and others have very strict and specific laws.

Basically, what works for one homeschool family {in one state} may not work for yours {in another state}.

Know the Homeschool Laws in Your State

So how do you find the laws and statutes in your state that entitle you to homeschool, but also give you the information for what is required from you? And once you find it, how do you understand it? This is very important, because laws in each state are continually changing and the changing of a single word or phrase can make a big difference in your homeschooling.

Going by what other online homeschool moms are doing can be difficult, unless you know they are in the same state you are. Again {and I cannot stress this enough} each state is different, so be sure you know the laws that apply to you and your family.

{This is where I mention to take a deep breath…hang in there!}.

The one place that I would HIGHLY recommend checking first is the Home School Legal Defense Association – HSLDA.org. This is a great source to find current and accurate information. HSLDA has a webpage dedicated to state homeschool laws. From this main page you are able to click on the state that you live in and download current information on homeschooling requirements.

Another resource for families is National Home Education Network. They have a variety of resources available on their website as well, including a state-at-a-glance page for families.

Know Your Local Ordinances

Once you know the laws for your state, you are almost there. You should also check with your city/town ordinances and your local Public School Board. The cities and counties in each state may have additional policies or requirements to go along with the state laws.

For example, each year we are required to send in a notice of intent to homeschool and also testing results to our county {based on the option we have chosen to homeschool under in our state}. Things are a little different between the nearby city we used to live in compared to the county that we now live in – minor differences, but ones that we need to be aware of regardless.

Requirements may be minimal or more complex – but you are responsible for knowing what is required in your area, so be sure to do your homework!

Questions to Ask

Each state requires different things from the parent {a.k.a. teacher} and the child {a.k.a. student}. Things to consider when looking at the law might include:

  • Hourly, daily, and yearly requirements. Some states require 180 days of school attendance, a specific hour amount for each day of attendance while other states are not as strict in their guidelines. Be sure to find out what your state specifies.
  • Legal documentation. Are there any legal forms that need to be turned into the state or local government at the beginning or end of each school year? Some states require a notice of intent {NOI} to be filed, end of the year testing to complete and report, evaluations via a secondary source, etc… There may also be specific dates to complete and turn in paperwork, attendance reports to file – again things that are specific to your state and locality, so be sure to know the law inside and out.
  • Record keeping. How specific do you need to be with your record keeping each year? Are you required to keep paperwork? Keep a homeschool planner with detailed lesson plans?
  • Yearly testing. Is testing something that is required in your state? Are there specific tests that need to be used annually? Testing is one of the options for assessment in our state, and results need to be turned in at a specific time each year, so know the deadlines for test result submissions as well.
  • Teaching requirements. Does the teaching parent or family have specific requirements: a high school diploma, a college degree, a teaching license, or are there no state requirements? For example, in our state, the requirement is that a parent have a high school diploma {either parent in our state can have this – it doesn’t have to be the teaching parent}. Do you have to submit proof of your education?
  • Independent assessments. Some states offer an option of having an assessment done via a certified teacher or require annual assessments. Know the law for your area and check with local homeschool families for recommendations of teachers that can help with this area.
  • Yearly portfolios. Are these required and what must be included when submitting one to your local authority? Is this just once a year? Multiple times a year?
  • Curriculum and subject requirements. Is your family required to teach specific subjects or use specific curriculum? Some states may require certain subjects at different grade levels, only require basic subjects, or have no requirements at all. Our state requires only a specific few subjects and we do not have to turn in specific curriculum names, just an outline of what we plan to cover in the year.
  • Age of attendance. Certain states do not require school attendance until age 6, but some may be earlier or later. Also, what age are you required to continuing schooling {age 16 or higher}? School attendance is required, just be sure to know the law in your state. Don’t assume that all children must be in ‘school’ at age five.
  • Withdrawing from public school. If you child has been a part of the public school system or in a private school, you need to know what {and when} you are required to submit paperwork and if there are any requirements before withdrawing your child from school to school at home.

Understanding it All and Finding Help

How do you even begin to fully understand the law and all that is required in your area? Here are a few additional resources for you to consider in understanding your homeschool laws.

  • Contact your state homeschool support group – our state has a fabulous statewide support group with online resources as well as the ability to call and speak to people in person. Because it is state specific, they will better be able to help with the laws governing your state. Find your state support group here.
  • Attend a homeschool convention or workshop – many states have an annual homeschool conventions that offer fabulous help in workshops or classes and have knowledgeable people available that can help answer your questions.
  • Connect with local homeschool groups not sure where to start looking? HSLDA has a listing of smaller homeschool organizations listed by state. You might also try calling local churches, since many groups and co-ops meet at local churches {at least in our area they do!}.
  • Find a seasoned homeschool mom in your area – there are many moms around you that have been walking the homeschool road for years. Don’t underestimate the knowledge and resource they can be to your family.

Above all, I would encourage you to fully understand and know the law. Ultimately, you are the one that is responsible, regardless of what other families have told you about the law.  I highly recommend becoming a member of HSLDA.org because they are continually advocating for the rights of homeschool families and as a member you are entitled to free legal counsel as it relates to your homeschool rights {and this isn’t a paid endorsement for them – grins}.

We are blessed to have the freedom to educate our children at home. There are many families that have fought for the rights that we are enjoying – and I am so grateful that they have made the road so much easier for us today!

I’d also invite you to stick around over the next few weeks. I’m working on answering questions that you all have been asking about beginning to homeschool and hope that this will be a helpful series.

Question for you: Do you live in a state with strict homeschool laws or one that is fairly laid back for homeschoolers? What other recommendations do you have for new homeschool families to check for the laws in their state?

Disclaimer: I am not giving any legal advice and am unable to give you specific advice for your state and/or situation. This post is intended to help you find resources for homeschooling.

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

Jolanthe Signature